Jenny's take on School Committee Budget Meeting
On Monday night there were two School Committee meetings. Here's an update about the Budget Meeting.
This was a Committee of the Whole (COTW) where portions of the budget were discussed. For several COTWs now, various departments have presented their narrative and budget requests. I think it's important to note that the requests for additional funding across the board have been rather modest and likely do not represent any level of a full wish list. This is practical and not uncommon in budgeting exercises.
This week, the middle schools presented their requests. Most of the additional adds related to stipends to support various after school activities, including a request by the McGlynn Middle to expand library hours more formally after a successful pilot this year. Both schools also made requests for additional Chromebooks.
At the end of the meeting Kirsteen Paterson (Asst. Sup of Finance and Administration) noted that all school departments have now been reviewed. She did not provide a total number of all of the components discussed over the series of meetings. She also explained that a budget target of $61+ million was provided by the city earlier in the day. She noted that there would need to be some adjustments (presumably a reduction of new items to the budget), to reduce the budget and bring it into line with the city number. This ‘adjusted’ budget number is $63+ million.
The gap between the city number and the adjusted budget number will be made up by other sources of revenue flowing into the district. She did not provide an accounting of these sources verbally at the meeting but generally these revenues are from things such as: After School/MEEP programs, Other State Sources, Rentals (such as Lesley University, Japanese School, and various churches), Vocational Education Tuition, and CASIT which funds Medford’s Italian programs.
The timing of the process is not super unusual, especially given that there are still many unknowns about funding from the state and other sources. I think the reality is that these unknowns are not fully known until well into the school year. This does now mean that items discussed during the various meetings as modest additions to the budget may not be included to get to the $63+ million number. Because this was breaking news, a full list of eliminated items was not shared. It was noted that the cuts would not be to currently in-place programs, but to new requests (for example, the request for a Foreign Language Director). By the next meeting a full list of items removed from the budget will be provided.
The School Committee passed a vote requiring the finance department to provide electronic versions of the budget in a machine readable format. Finally, there was a request for a Public Hearing on the full budget to be televised before a vote is called to approve the budget. This meeting is scheduled for Monday June 24th. At this meeting, there will be time for public comment.
This post has been edited to include information and support provided by Paul Ruseau that clarifies the content and context of comments made during the meeting. Without handouts, it is hard to be a member of the audience for sure. Many thanks for the assist.